Feeding 101: Feeding for Optimal Cow Performance

What better way to kick off September than going back to school? This month’s blog posts will be about brushing up on the basics, coving topics related to feeding and herd health.


Feeding 101: Feeding for Optimal Cow Performance

You work with a nutritionist to formulate a perfectly balanced ration for your herd – so why aren’t you seeing the results you expected? Unfortunately, this is a situation that many farmers deal with.

A recent study conducted by the University of Guelph found that most TMRs fed did not match the recipe formulated by the farm’s nutritionist. Comparing samples taken over the course of a week, Dr. Trevor DeVries, Animal & Poultry Science Professor at the University of Guelph, discovered many farms were over- and under-feeding nutrients by as much as 10 percent! Typically, crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, and sodium were underfed, while nonfiber carbohydrates, acid detergent fiber, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium were overfed.


DeVries suggests that operators regularly evaluate their ingredients, equipment, and mixing process to ensure a nutritious, consistent ration is being produced. A consistent ration will reduce sorting behaviors, which is known to have negative impacts on milk production and overall production efficiency.

Although your dairy ration may be perfect on paper, it often differs from the one that is delivered to your herd. A number of factors can contribute to this, including variations in feed composition and quality, improperly weighed ingredients, under- or over-mixing, and cow sorting.

DeVries offers additional suggestions to improve milk production. Offering multiple feeding per day can improve rumen digestion and milk production. His findings show that feeding twice a day results in a 6% greater milk yield than once-a-day feedings. Offering more frequent, smaller meals allows a more consistent input of nutrients, which improves fiber digestibility, rumen efficiency, and milkfat production.




DeVries, Trevor. “What ration do your cows eat?Hoard’s Dairyman 10 Aug. 2014: 490.


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